That’s what Get Healthy Now Director Patricia Benson said about the University of Louisville receiving Platinum level Fit Friendly certification from the American Heart Association.
UofL participates in an AHA program called Fit-Friendly Companies, which is designed to help employers develop a culture of physical activity and health among their employees. It is part of a larger initiative called Start! that asks individuals and companies to do things to be healthier — such as participate in the current UofL/UK Walk Challenge.
Get Healthy Now, UofL’s employee health management program, has provided UofL faculty and staff with such wellness opportunities as walks and movement group classes, on-campus fitness facilities, wellness coaching, and smoking cessation and other classes since 2005. Sodexo, UofL’s dining services provider, is making efforts to provide more fresh foods and healthy food options at campus dining facilities.
All of those efforts factor into the Fit Friendly certification.
For the past four years, UofL has applied for — and received — Gold level Fit Friendly certification because it offers employees physical activity support, has increased healthy eating options on campus, promotes a wellness culture and implements some of the physical, nutrition and culture activities that the Start! program recommends, Benson said.
Employers receive platinum designation when they meet gold certification criteria and demonstrate at least one Start!-specified behavior change, achieve at least one Start!-specified cost savings outcome and have achieved a documented positive return on investment, she said.
An external review showed that UofL saved $2.67 in health care expenses for every $1 in Get Healthy Now program costs, Benson said. The analysis also showed that annual health care costs for employees who participated in Get Healthy Now increased by only 2.5 percent while they increased by 19.5 percent for non-participating employees.
“This recognition by the American Heart Association is a true testament to your Get Healthy Now program and the success that it brings to the University of Louisville,” wrote Devin Higgins, heart walk director with the local AHA office, in an e-mail announcing the award to Benson.
“Adult Americans spend a majority of their waking hours at work, and many are in sedentary careers,” Benson said. “With obesity costing American businesses $12.7 billion per year in medical expenses and $225.8 billion in health-related productivity losses, any program that increases physical activity of employees will affect the bottom line.”
Studies suggest that having work place physical activity programs, such as Get Healthy Now, and promoting a culture of activity will help companies increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, lower turnover and reduce health care costs, she said.